Embracing the Tension Square

The Unsung Hero of Knitting: Embracing the Tension Square

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just picking up your first set of needles, one thing remains constant: the importance of the (often dreaded) tension square.

So, what exactly is a tension square?

Also known as a gauge swatch, it's a small sample of knitting worked up in the same pattern, yarn and needles as your intended project.

Often overlooked or brushed aside in the eagerness to dive into a new project, the tension square is truly the unsung hero of knitting, offering a multitude of benefits that can elevate your knitting experience from good to great. And whilst it may seem like an unnecessary step, taking the time to knit a tension square can save you from a world of frustration and disappointment down the line. Here's why:

Unique tension - we are all different and as a result even if two or three of us pick up the exact same size needles, yarn and pattern, our end results may vary    considerably.

Not all yarns are created equal - even if you use the same weight yarn as suggested in your pattern, factors like fibre content and ply (or construction) can affect how a yarn behaves when knitted up.

Pattern practice - knitting a small sample in a specified pattern is a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with a new stitch or technique.

Troubleshooting - tension square waaaaaayyy off?  Alarm bells should be ringing. Check the yarn and needles specified and used, check for any pattern errata or reach out to the designer or maybe your LYS for advice.

Confidence  boost - nailed your tension square?  You can now dive into your project with confidence.

In addition to providing invaluable information about your knitting, it also serves as a reminder to slow down, practice patience, and embrace the journey of creating something beautiful. So, the next time you pick up your needles, don't forget to pay homage to the unsung hero of knitting – the humble tension square.

Your future self will thank you for it.

Personally, I keep my squares so I can refer back to them if another pattern calls for the same yarn/needle combination. It’s still a good idea to re-do your tension squares periodically as our tension will change over time as our confidence grows. 

In my next blog post we will keep talking about tension and I’ll explain why I don’t provide a printed gauge/tension square on the ballbands of my own hand-dyed yarns, the way commercially produced yarns do. 

Until then,

Happy knitting (tension squares or otherwise!)